Title: Olympus Has Fallen
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
Director(s): Antoine Fuqua
Release Year: 2013
Olympus Has Fallen is being hailed as “Die Hard in the White House”, and though normally these kind of taglines feel like a stretch, Antoine Fuqua has essentially done exactly what the tagline suggests. Gerard Butler masquerades as a John McClane that’s more concerned with his job than his family, ready to do insane action stunts that could risk his own life, and not afraid to spew witty remarks over and over to the guy holding everyone hostage. The comparisons are aplenty, so much so that the only major differences are that the setting is the White House, and the terrorists are not Germans. Normally I’d be completely against a film that feels so much like a carbon copy, but Olympus Has Fallen is just too much fun to disregard it as just another Die Hard-clone. There isn’t much to this action romp but a ridiculous premise and some high-octane thrills, but the absurd notion of it all and every actor’s commitment to making the movie more than just a generic action film is what makes Olympus Has Fallen tower over the other action films from this year, so far.
When Mike Banning (Butler) is pulled from being a member of the secret service, and protecting the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart), his life no longer feels complete. He was great at his job, and nothing will ever compare to the feeling of responsibility he had when protecting the President. However, when a meeting between the President and the Prime Minister of South Korea goes awry, Banning is the country’s only hope to save their President from the North Korean terrorists who have taken him hostage deep below the White House. The special effects in Olympus Has Fallen range from poor to average, but the sheer scale of the destruction takes precedent over any mediocre effects. The main focus is watching Banning unleash hell on these terrorists, thwarting all of their plans. If that’s not enough, he also has to battle with executive commands from the acting President, Speaker Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), and General Clegg (Robert Forster), who are more often than not a hindrance to Banning’s mission to save the President.
Action happens quickly, with a few moments of tension that are not effective, so much as they just keep things fresh. From Abraham Lincoln busts being used to bludgeon North Koreans, to the senseless killings of hundreds of innocent citizens as the White House is first being attacked, Olympus Has Fallen is not short on the carnage you’d expect from a film of this caliber. While the body count reaches ludicrous heights, the film doesn’t go insane with blood everywhere, keeping everything grounded and being as sensitive to the topic as possible. It strikes a beautiful balance between absolute carnage and respectable restraint, making the action scenes feel fun, without feeling disgusting afterwards. Similar to Die Hard, it keeps the human elements of the film at a decent distance from the action without compromising the enjoyment factor.
Beyond the over-the-top action sequences and unabashedly ridiculous premise, there’s a cast spewing out one ridiculous line of dialogue after another, with Morgan Freeman headlining the event. Then you have a bunch of smaller characters played by the likes of Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Cole Hauser, and Robert Forster, who give their all in being both serious and having a tinge of absurdity to them. Aaron Eckhart plays the President with ease, and when Morgan Freeman steps in as acting President, it fits even more like a glove. The star of the film, Butler, isn’t noteworthy by any stretch of the imagination, but he does his best with the character he’s given, though it’s clear how much the writers were influenced by John McClane. It is a shameless copy of the Die Hard character, but after the tenth unnecessary wisecrack, Olympus Has Fallen shows it has no qualms with being a carbon copy of the superior action film.
Despite the feel of the film being eerily similar to that of the Die Hard series, it is not enough to discredit the movie from being an exciting spectacle of explosions and gunfire. The performances from this all-star cast are enjoyable, if not a little bit silly, but the reason Olympus Has Fallen will attract any of its viewers is because of the narrative and the action, both of which deliver on being pure fun. There’s a few plot lines thrown in there that aren’t exactly necessary, but they ease up on the thrills and provide a little more variety in between the carnage and cheesy one-liners. By no means is Olympus Has Fallen an incredible feat in any regard, but it is fun, and will probably remain as one of the most fun action films of this year.